Those of you readers in the UK will already know, that once famous photographic retailer Jessops has finally called in the administrators. From the very first store, Jessops traces it roots back to a chemist store opened in Leicester 130 years ago, run by Frank Jessop. It was in 1935 that Frank Jessop transformed it into a photography shop, in the early days mainly involved in hiring and selling 16mm cine films.
I well recall when I was a kid in the UK, Jessops used to be one of my most visited stores, where I bought my developing and printing supplies, film and sometimes just to browse around.
In actual fact, I spent so much time in my local store, that at one time the Manager asked me if I wanted a job there, as I seemed to take a more genuine interest in the field than his regular Staff did!
Over time, I could see that Jessops were having a tough time keeping customers coming into their stores. A revamping took place some time years ago but it failed to deliver. Then when the dreaded digital revolution came around, Jessops was to suffer drastically. yes, they had a good range fo digital cameras in stock, yes, they retrained their Staff on digital media, but for some inexplicable reason, they couldn’t compete.
One reason could be the plethora of online retailers, who even now, never have the costs that stores have, such as rents, utility bills, Staffing costs etc. As such, they could afford to sell at rock-bottom prices and still make a profit. And that is something that we will see more and more, I fear, with time. Take a look around at any downtown area and you’ll see what I mean….empty shops, with To Let or To Rent signs everywhere. And that’s killing town centres.
I’m just worried at our emerging generations. The absence of shops like Jessops from the high streets may cause a drop in new talent in photography, especially film photography. I mean, look at how I was pulled in; although I was interested in it anyway, whenever I walked past a Jessops or other photo store, I was always fascinated at the stuff on display, and thence grew my passion. If these stores are no longer part of the street scene……you know what I mean.
What is the answer then? We cannot ban online retailers from selling at prices that stores cannot match. One of the things that stores have over online retailers is that their buyers can walk in, handle the stuff they want to buy, ask questions, spend as much time as they want looking, handling the product, before making up their minds. And if that store has properly trained and passionate Staff, those customers’ experience will bear fruit and the store will make sales.
That is only one point. I’m sure experienced retailers will be able to add more to that.
Meantime, let’s all hope that this does not become a growing trend, as with the fall of retailers, manufacturers will also come under pressure to stop producing products, including film.